The ‘Prince of Kolkata’ Sourav Ganguly turns a year older today on July 8. He remains the best the country has ever produced and in his glittering cricket career, the left-hander scored 11363 ODI runs with 22 hundreds. In Tests, he peeled off 7212 runs in 113 games.
However, his biggest contributions to Indian cricket were the decisions he took as a captain and one of his masterstrokes was to make Virender Sehwag a Test opener. This decision not only changed India’s fortunes in Test cricket, but paved the way for an entirely new breed of openers in Tests the world over.
A few media reports suggest that when he asked Sehwag to open, he assured him that even if he failed as an opener, he would still be in the team and this confidence propelled the right-hander to become India’s most successful opener.
Virender Sehwag did not start out as an opener. He was a middle-order batsman even for Delhi and made a debut century playing in the middle-order against South Africa. However, Ganguly needed him to open the innings owing to his attacking style of play and gave him all the confidence in the world to succeed at the highest level. Sehwag ended his career with an average close to 50 and two triple tons to his name.
Sehwag has also recalled his experience when Ganguly came up to him and asked him to open the innings for the first time in Test cricket in England in 2002.
Sehwag shared that his first question to Ganguly and coach John Wright was “why me?"
Ganguly had the ability to back his players and give them the confidence to be successful in every condition. During their interaction, the skipper said, “Viru, no one made a career by sitting on the bench. Why don’t you open? And opening is not a skill anyone is born with. If [Matthew] Hayden and [Justin] Langer could do it, so can you”.